If everything had gone according to plan, we would be able to remember Prince for one more memorable movie role. After the performer died unexpectedly last week, the fascinating story of his early involvement in The Fifth Element was remembered by his fans. The Purple One was almost a part of '90s sci-fi classic, but apparently the costume was a little too flamboyant for his tastes. (Either that or a language barrier really got in the way.)
In 2013, a Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit in Brooklyn included concept drawings Gaultier did for what would have been Prince's costume in the film. Gaultier worked hand-in-hand with director Luc Besson to create all the movie's memorable costumes. The drawings show Prince wearing what appears to be a fishnet bodystocking adorned with symbols and festooned with shaggy hair. He would have played Ruby Rhod, the role famously played by Chris Tucker.
The Brooklyn Museum exhibit included Gaultier's incredible story about meeting Prince to talk about the costume. We've included the whole thing below the pictures.
From the Gaultier exhibit: One of the thousand costumes in The Fifth Element, I took my inspiration for many of them from my own collections. Filming was originally planned for 1992, with Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson and Prince in the leading roles but due to a lack of financing the project was put on hold. At that time, the role of Ruby Rhod, the outrageous media personality finally played by Chris Tucker, had been given to Prince.
When the singer was giving a series of concerts in Paris, Luc Besson wanted us both to meet with him to show him my sketches. Prince had already attended my runway shows, but he came and went very quickly every time, so we had never been formally introduced. While I was waiting for Luc in his office, I saw this huge bodyguard appear, with Prince trailing behind him. As Luc hasn't yet arrived, I thought he must have wanted me to meet with Prince alone, so we could get to know each other a little bit. In broken English, and with my strong French accent, I tried my best to make conversation, something like "Hell-O Prin-ze, welcome to Par-isse! So for ze role I sink…"
I showed him my drawings, but he didn't say a word. I had had an idea for a really funny costume with netting which quite long body hair would pass through, and I had done front and back versions of it. So then I explained to Prince: "Eet eel fake 'air, you know, and eet eel beaucoup, beaucoup, airy, vraiment fun, and ze back is made of sat, and on ze back were eez ze faux cul, you know, a very big faux cul." and I slapped my buttocks to show him how the back of the costume would be designed.
Still not saying anything, Prince gave me this Charlie Chaplin kind of look. I could see that something had just happened, but I didn't know what, only that he had indicated to his body guard that he wanted to leave right then and there. I thought he was going to go and see Luc. Later, Luc told me that Prince had been very surprised and amused — by my presentation, but that he found the costumes a bit too effeminate. And, most importantly, he had thought he head "Fuck you, fuck you!" when I was saying in my terrible English accent "faux cul, faux cul" [fake ass]!
—Jean Paul Gaultier